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Bailey's Take on Pirate Sports


From the Anchor Desk
Friday, May 23, 2003
By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9

Pirates "squeeze" some more life into NCAA hopes


The Pirates are hanging on in the Conference USA baseball tournament in New Orleans.

If you’ve watched this team play, you’ll recognize the script. This team has been better offensively late in games all year.

Just when it looked like East Carolina's season might end, the Pirates rallied for six runs in the 8th inning Thursday morning against Charlotte to salvage the game 8-5 and staye alive in the event.

"Anybody who has followed us throughout the season knows that the later innings are when we swing the bats best," said an obviously relieved Pirate head coach Randy Mazey.

The 8th-seeded 49ers finished seven games under .500 for the year. East Carolina, the No. 5 seed, had much more to play for in the game but its success didn’t come until time was running out.

The Pirates got the go-ahead run playing “small-ball”. John Poppert crossed the plate for the tally that gave the Pirates the lead on a suicide squeeze bunt by Ben Sanderson.

You’ll recall that Sanderson was awarded the number 23 jersey this season, to honor former Pirate coach Keith LeClair. Sanderson best exemplified what the coach stood for, and some of those assets obviously played a roll with what turned out to be the game-winning bunt.

With the win, the Pirates improve to 33-24-1. Every win is key when it comes to an NCAA tournament at-large bid. Several media outlets have the Pirates in as a lower seed, but I don’t share that same enthusiasm.

The Pirates, though, still have a shot because of the way the C-USA Tournament is formatted. This is actually a pair of four-team double elimination tournaments, with a single championship game.

It is an uphill battle, but the Pirates just have to string some wins together and get to the title game. Then, the deed to a postseason plot can be secured in one game.

It’s obvious, though, that this team fed off of the home field advantage when it hosted last season's league tournament in Kinston. This year, the squad has played back-to-back games 9 a.m. games.

“Nobody is at their best at nine o’clock in the morning,” Coach Mazey said before the tournament.

I agree, and although I’m not in New Orleans, it just doesn’t seem like the excitement is there, with the small morning crowds. On a positive note, Thursday's comeback against Charlotte could go a long way towards fueling some momentum for the Pirates down in the Big Easy.

It’s survive and advance, lose and perhaps call it a season. Every win from here on is crucial as ECU scrapes and claws for that at-large bid.

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02/23/2007 01:26:35 AM

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